Release Day Review: Dancing Lessons by R. Cooper

Two years of living with his controlling boyfriend left Chico worn down long before that boyfriend revealed he’d been seeing someone else. With no other choice, Chico moves in above his cousin’s garage in a small town in the redwoods, where he merely goes through the motions. To get him out of the house, his cousin pushes him to volunteer at a local dance studio to help with their annual show.

He’s not expecting to end up in a dance class, or to start feeling alive again in the arms of his dance instructor. Rafael is the studio owners’ son and was once a well-known dancer in his own right, but now enjoys being a teacher. Although Chico likes him, he’s afraid of taking a chance. But Rafael is determined, and it only takes one dance for Chico to start to realize he might still have something to learn.

You know what this story had that I f’ing love?


Anyone who reads any flavor of romance knows what I’m talking about here. I can only imagine how difficult it can be to write one successfully. There can’t be too much verbiage or it will kill it and the description of the physical happenings between characters has to be enough to picture but not too much so that the beauty gets lost in the detail.

Chico has escaped from the city to the small mountain town of Brandywine to lick his wounds and try to figure out just who the hell he is. His relationship with his ex has wrecked his self-confidence. The author did a really good job of showing the past without giving me a laundry list of events to make sure I understood. The details came out organically as they were relevant to what was happening in the story.

One thing I really loved about Chico was how real he read. He could have easily become “pathetic” but he didn’t because he knew what his problems were and anyone who has been cheated on and dumped will know exactly the struggles Chico is facing in his own head. The author didn’t rely on magic peen to solve all Chico’s problems either. Chico truly did not understand how Raf could be attracted to him and instead of getting frustrated with Chico it just made me so sad for him. He’s a realist and he’s been through the wringer so any other reaction would not have been anywhere near realistic.

Soooo, speaking of Raf. DAYUM. I could stop there, BUT I won’t. He’s charming, confident and remarkably humble considering the package he comes wrapped in.

“The dance teacher was some kind of sexy dancer whisperer.” 

He really could not have been better for Chico, and vice versa. The author described Chico’s feelings in one interlude between the characters as “twitterpated”.

“Chico stopped to heave a breath. ‘And now you’re flirting with me, and it’s so nice I don’t know what to do.’” 

For one, that word does not get used enough in general and secondly, it was the perfect description. Chico is really so charming when he’s lost like that and Raf falls for that reaction and Chico’s Bambi eyes hard.

The story and the relationship between Chico and Raf evolved at the same pace as Chico found his footing again. He would apologize for not being the man he once was and for not being on top of all the adult things he thinks he should have a handle on. Slowly he realized that how skewed his perspective was with all the BS his ex had fed him. I loved reading his revelations and respected the hell out of him for not falling into old habits. He knew he had to be strong Chico for himself before he could be any good for anyone else. That buried strength and self-awareness is present throughout and as glimpses of it came out I could sense Raf falling for him harder and harder. Those little glimpses showed Chico’s true personality and sense of humor and he was so proud of himself when he could make Raf laugh.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the secondary characters. Chico is living above his cousin Davi’s garage and Davi is just so amazing. He’s supportive without being sappy and he has no problem giving Chico a kick in the ass when needed. Davi has a story I would love to read. Chico’s parents are charmingly traditional and wholly supportive of Chico and Davi. They were there for Davi when Davi’s parents failed. I could sense their closeness even if Davi didn’t have tons of page time. Raf’s parents were a total kick. His tiny little mother as the grande dame of the dance school was both intimidating and wise as she spoke to Chico and always knew exactly what to say to him. She fed his new found confidence without coddling him. While Raf’s dad didn’t have a lot of dialog, his actions and place in the family couldn’t be overlooked. It speaks to the strength of his character in that he didn’t need to have a huge time presence to have that much of an impact on other characters.

Moving back to the MOMENTS. Dancing and the upcoming recital played a big part of the story and so were a vehicle for the relationship between Chico and Raf. The author didn’t bury the characters in obvious dancing metaphors or overkill the mechanics of dance and Raf’s history. Instead she used it in such a smart way, to show me the connection between Chico and Raf. Raf’s hands were a big deal for Chico and the thought of Raf’s hands on him made him melt. When Raf would reach his hand out to Chico, there was no denying the importance of the gesture throughout the story. At 78% the big MOMENT that slayed me happened. There was very little actual dialog but the UST pouring off the pages was palpable. In a short 2 pages there were revelations, acknowledgements, happiness and heat. Good Lord, so much happiness and heat. I read it three times.

Because it’s imperative to some readers I do have to say the story ends on an incredibly optimistic HFN. It really was completely fine for the story and where the characters were in their fledgling relationship. That would be my only complaint, that isn’t even really a complaint, I just plain want more. I don’t think an epilogue would have been enough, but I can hope that the author would be willing to revisit Brandywine and continue Chico and Raf’s story.

For more info on Dancing Lessons check it out on Goodreads.

And to get your own copy, head over to Dreamspinner Press!

**a copy of this story was provided to us for an honest review**

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